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Monday, August 21, 2017


JOLT IN MINOT “We have been kidding ourselves in this community about how much it costs to finance city services, and we have been playing a little bit of a shell game by covering a lot of those costs with sales tax revenue” -- Minot City Manager Tom Barry. He said, “The jig is up now that sales tax collections are down about 30 percent.” Minot residents are being abruptly introduced to reality by a property tax increase of over 30 percent. Barry said low oil and ag prices, plus the drop in the Canadian dollar (tourist shopping), caused a big drop in sales tax collections.

HUB CITIES Williston, Dickinson and Minot are designated hub cities because of their key roles in providing Oil Patch infrastructure. It’s no small matter, the cities received $12.4 million, $6.4 million and $1.5 million, respectively, from the state in fiscal 2017 because of that designation. All three cities have high levels of debt because of new infrastructure. A state legislative committee held a hearing in Williston on future hub city funding.

GRAND SKY A headline in the Forum papers read “North Dakota has invested big money in drones, when will it pay off?” The president of Grand Sky, a UAS technology park at Grand Forks AFB, says it already is paying off. Northrup Grumman has 30 employees at Grand Sky and may have 100 by year-end. An administrator for GF County said the state’s $17 million investment in Grand Sky is generating $50 million of economic activity -- a 3:1 return.

THE 11TH ANNUAL UAS SUMMIT will take place at the Grand Forks Alerus Center next week. Past summits have focused on military uses of unmanned aircraft, but this year a larger focus is expected on commercial uses. The Northern Plains Test Site has federal approval to fly drones beyond visual line of sight -- the only U.S. site with such approval. The FAA is forming guidelines for those operations. Potential Grand Sky tenants are believed to be waiting for “beyond-line-of-sight” operations to begin in December.

DROUGHT "We could be looking at a $4 billion impact on Main Street, which means tax revenue that is lost, jobs that aren't being supported." -- ND Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring; he also said there was a $1.1 billion direct impact on producers. “The drought may be the last straw for producers who have been weighing the decision of calling a quits,” Goehring said. The state may be forced to make further budget cuts.

WAYWARD DRUMMER “That it happened in the middle of North Dakota, however, adds extra wince value.” -- The Star Tribune’s reaction to Scottish rock band Belle & Sebastian, which left its drummer in his pajamas when their bus made a nighttime pit stop at the Dickinson Walmart. The band was on its way from a show in MIssoula to St. Paul’s Palace Theatre. Last report, Delta airlines flew drummer Richard Colburn from Bismarck to Minneapolis.

IT HAPPENED AGAIN Harold Miller, 71, of Sacramento was a little careless going through Mandan/Bismarck on I-94 and the Highway Patrol stopped his Dodge minivan. The result, one of the largest drug busts in NDHP history -- 183 pounds of marijuana worth about $700,000. This was the latest of a series of large drug seizures from drug runners speeding on I-94.

GUILTY It’s not every day that a presidential candidate pleads guilty to criminal mischief in Mandan. Jill Stein, last year’s Green Party candidate, who spray painted construction equipment during the Dakota Access Pipeline protests, entered such a plea last week.

BOBBY WASN’T AVAILABLE Last Saturday, Robby Vee played the pavilion at the Red Willow Lake Resort. No, that’s not a misspelling, Robby is the son of the late Bobby, and Robby played at a celebration of the resort’s 100th anniversary. Red Willow is in east central ND about 60 miles southwest of Grand Forks. There are few lake resorts in ND and for years Red Willow was the “center of the teenage social universe,” entertaining 700 to 900 teenagers every Friday night. In addition to Bobby Vee: Harry James, Sammy Kaye, Tommy Dorsey and Glenn Miller were among the big bands that played Red Willow on their way to larger venues.

THE CHURCH OF CASH got rolling with Johnny Cash favorites including: “Ring of Fire,” Folsom Prison Blues,” a Boy named Sue,” Jackson” and Sunday Morning Coming Down.” Jay Ernest, the lead singer, has a natural deep bass-baritone voice like Cash. The band, billed as a “World Class Johnny Cash Tribute,” entertained this week as part of First Dickinson Summer Nights. In fairness, this is just one of a number of Cash tribute bands around the country.

LEMMINGS The 77th annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally confirmed its reputation for mayhem. There were 68 injury accidents and eight deaths, both totals were well up from last year.

THEY WANT TO BE “CORRECT” The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis arranged outstanding speakers for their annual writing conference. Only one problem -- the speakers were all white. After complaints, the conference was canceled for failing to meet goals of inclusiveness and equity. Ten speakers of color were invited, but were unavailable.

NEW BOOK “Scandinavians: In Search of the Soul of the North” by Robert Ferguson is an effort to combine the histories of Norway, Sweden and Denmark and explain emigration to the U.S. Between 1836 and 1915, 800,000 Norwegians and 1.25 million Swedes emigrated to the U.S.

DAKTOIDS: The westbound Empire Builder got in a scrape near Minot -- literally. A Mack water truck and trailer struck the second engine and scraped 11 cars. No one was injured and the train was delayed several hours, but not heavily damaged -- the truck was destroyed . . . The Dakota Access Pipeline is making a big impact -- in June, 78 percent of Bakken crude oil was transported by pipeline and only 7 percent by rail . . . Sen. Hoeven announced the State of ND will receive $10 million from the federal government to cover law enforcement costs related to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests.

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